‘Secure Himalaya’ to conserve snow leopard, uplift mountain community launched

New Delhi: The “Secure Himalaya” plan intended to conserve the snow leopards by protecting their habitats and improve the ecology of Himalayan ranges and lives of the mountain communites — all among the worst victims of climate change — was launched here on Monday.

With a total budget sanction of over $72.3 million, the Secure Himalaya project, launched by the Union Environment Ministry in collaboration with United Nations Development Program (UNDP). will cover Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.

Among the key areas of focus, the project will work on curbing the snow leopard smuggling and poaching.

A rapid estimation of the economic value generated from snow leopard habitats in India is set at $4 billion per annum, of which about $3 billon comes from power generation, $0.5 billion from livestock and agriculture, while $0.4 billion comes from tourism.

The project’s objectives note that “the snow leopard, its prey, its eco-systems face a variety of direct and indirect threats… Habitat degradation and fragmentation of area are a direct threat and increasing due to the high dependence of local communities on natural resources and unplanned infrastructure”.

It stressed that the emerging threats of illegal wildlife trade and wildlife crime need attention.

The project includes the Kangchenjunga and Teesta valley areas in Sikkim, the Gangotri-Govind and Darma Bayas valley in the Pithoragarh area of Uttarakhand, Pangi and Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh and Changhang in Jammu and Kashmir, which are home to around 67.57 million people.

The project also outlined that the remoteness and relative seclusion has made the mountain communities, that includes many tribal communities, among the last bastions of globally significant indigenous knowledge and cultural heterogeneity.